No doubt about it, the Lost Bayou Ramblers is the hardest rocking band in Cajun music.
Brothers Louis and Andre Michot, co-founders of the band, grew up with the traditional Cajun music performed by their father and uncles in Les Frères Michot. But the Michot brothers also experienced the rock, rap and pop music that most young people in mainstream America were hearing.
Louis and Andre Michot eventually joined their father and uncles in Les Frères Michot. In 1999, they created their own band, the Lost Bayou Ramblers. Like Les Frères Michot, the Lost Bayou Ramblers performed traditional Cajun waltzes and two-steps — at first. The Michot brothers love their Cajun-music heritage, but they also love to rock ’n’ roll.
Anyone who’s witnessed a wild, loud performance by singing fiddler Louis Michot, accordion and lap steel player Andre Michot, drummer Pauly Deathwish and singer-guitarist Cavan Carruth in recent years knows the Lost Bayou Ramblers are not their father’s Cajun band.
“I had rock bands, psychedelic bands in high school,” Louis Michot said last week from the band’s home base in Acadiana. “We were always into all kinds of music. My brother learned how to play guitar playing the blues, when we lived in Baton Rouge for a couple of years. Andre went to Tabby’s Blues Box. I think he was 16. My dad had to escort him there, but they’d let him play at the jam.”
As the years passed and they played hundreds of gigs, the brothers realized that even traditional Cajun music didn’t exist in isolation. Cajun music, Louis Michot added, is infamous for absorbing popular musical styles and Cajun-izing them.
“It’s kept itself relevant as the generations have gone on,” he said. “And Cajun music itself is just another American music. But it happens to be our music, a certain subculture known as Cajun.”
The Lost Bayou Ramblers captured the rocking spirit of their stage show with their latest album, Mammoth Waltz. Recorded near Lafayette at Dockside Studio, the album features special guests Dr. John, Gordon Gano from the rock band Violent Femmes, actress and singer Scarlett Johansson and French actress and singer Nora Arnezeder.
Gano made a surprise appearance with the Lost Bayou Ramblers on stage in New Orleans in 2008 at d.b.a. on Frenchmen Street. They performed the Violent Femmes classic “Blister in the Sun” together. No one was more surprised at Gano’s appearance than the Ramblers. He’s since become a friend and a collaborator on stage and in the studio.
“We love playing with Gordon,” Michot said. “He’s laid-back and such a great, natural performer. Of course, you can’t go wrong with his songs and he plays our songs, too. We’ll call him and see if he wants to do a festival with us. He pretty much always says yes.”
Working with Dr. John for Mammoth Waltz and other projects has been a treat, too.
“Seeing him in action in the studio was amazing,” Michot said. “He kind of walked around, hummed the tune or thought about it a little bit. Then he’s like, ‘Y’all ready? All right. Let’s do it.’ I mean, he just got right to it.”
Dr. John and Arnezeder appear on the opening Mammoth Waltz track, a traditional Creole song called “Le Réveil de la Louisiane.”
“So, in the studio, Dr. John started playing and tweaking the organ,” Michot recalled of the session. “Before you knew it the organ sounded like raindrops in water. It was really cool to have him on such an ambient song.”
Mammoth Waltz, originally released in April, is being re-released on vinyl this month.
“We’ve wanted to release our albums on vinyl for a long time,” Michot said. “With this one we finally had something that we loved so much, we had to put it on vinyl. We spent far more time on this album than any of our previous albums. Vinyl it was such a unique musical experience. I’m so glad it’s coming back.”